The Smackdown Short Form, 04.06.07

In order to solve a problem, the parameters of the problem must be defined. It’s the most basic part of the Scientific Method. In fits and starts, including talking past each other, Aaron and I have now successfully defined our problem concerning John Cena. We’ve agreed on most things regarding Cena: as a technical performer, his ability is lacking. He doesn’t even do WWE Main Event Style well. His spots are uninspiring. He tends to be carried by better performers when he has the opportunity to face them. Aaron states in his column this week that the criterion he’s using for “improvement” is ability to tell a story in the ring, and in this aspect, Cena is improving.

I don’t think he is. I believe that he’s also letting wrestlers who are better than him at that carry him in this aspect. When he’s in the ring against someone who doesn’t have that skill, the match suffers because Cena isn’t able to pick up the slack. Good storytellers have to work even harder against Cena because Cena still isn’t able to hold up his end of the bargain. This is partially due to laziness on Cena’s part and partially due to the type of match that he wrestles. As Aaron said, Cena’s booked to be a Hoganesque figure. More emphasis is placed on the final comeback and the finisher than what it takes to get there. Cena being booked in this manner began at a very sensitive time in his career. It happened at the exact time that he started to get over based on his promos alone. At that point, all of his skills stopped progressing, including his ability to tell a story. He’d learned enough from Cornette in OVW to muddle through. Now, circumstances didn’t require him to expand on those skills, and he didn’t bother. He’s still not bothering.

Aaron uses the match against Jamalga as an example of Cena’s improvement in storytelling. What Aaron forgot is this little fact: Jamalga’s been immersed in wrestling since he was a kid. He comes from a successful wrestling family. He has learned, virtually from birth, how to tell a story in a power match, one of the most difficult aspects of wrestling. He’s even had a refresher course on how to do that courtesy of his time in Japan. Jamalga is an underrated storyteller because of the style that he wrestles. Storytelling isn’t put at a premium in a pure power match. But when he’s given the opportunity, he tries. He even tried against Lashley at Wrestlemania, despite the fact that the match didn’t require it due to the extracurriculars attached to it. Jamalga is smarter than most people give him credit for. That’s why his title match against Cena was watchable. He took it on his shoulders to make it that way.

My charge against Cena, by the way, is the same charge that Aaron brings up in regard to the Undertaker, which is interesting. As has been seen, though, UT knows how to bring it and does so when the circumstances warrant it (viz. against Angle). So what’s the difference here? Sixteen and a half years of careful character development. The Undertaker, as a character, is based on no-selling and semi-selling (in regard to the zombie sit-up, etc.). We expect this, and we accept it, because the character allows this to happen and allows it to be acceptable to us as an audience. Cena has not established himself enough to allow this suspense of disbelief, and doesn’t have the particular character that allows him to get away with that kind of stuff. UT incorporates that aspect of his character into his matches, and has had enough practice at it to pull it off to perfection each time. Mark Callaway wrestles smart (not in the sense of wrestling smarts, of course). He does just enough to get his point across, but not enough that it slips into being ludicrous. He also has the benefit of having a set of finishers that have been sold to the audience as being devastating. People buy the Tombstone, the Last Ride, and the chokeslam (whether through habituation or actual ability to sell is a matter for another debate). No one buys the F-U and the STFU; at least they haven’t gone into full Flex mode by having him get pinfalls off of the Five-Knuckle Shuffle, which is a blessing to our collective sanity. To be booked as a Superman-type without a convincing finisher is a mistake. This is why Benoit tapping out to the STFU received a collective “You’ve got to be f*cking kidding me” from the IWC (except for the Cena-tards who wrote me saying that since Benoit tapped out to the WWE Champion, it was fine; no, it wasn’t).

Aaron’s observation of Cena’s improvement is a well-crafted illusion, so well-crafted that someone with Aaron’s talent to spot the Good and Great in wrestling is fooled, or at least muddled enough to create confusion. It’s created by a judicious choice of opponents for him and an equally judicious choice of the type of matches he’s in. Notice how much time he spent between Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania in tag action. That helps disguise a great many deficiencies. The fact that he was tagging with one of the greatest ever at crafting a match helped disguise things even more. The acid test for Cena is when he starts getting booked against inferior opposition again. That’s when we’ll see whether or not he’s actually improved.

Right now, the case on my end for Cena’s improvement is “verdict not proven”. That doesn’t mean that it’s an absolute no. It means that I haven’t seen it. Frankly, I don’t expect to. If it happens, I’ll be shocked. It’ll be a pleasant shock, I assure you, but a shock nonetheless.

So, after all of that, let’s discuss the major WWE show that Cena isn’t on…

Match Results:

FudgePacker over Jeffykins (Pinfall, DDT): I keep having a sneaking suspicion that this was the type of thing that the Iranians forced those British sailors to watch. Blindfolding and isolation are pussy stuff compared to this. If this is too au courant and painful for you, think Alex DeLarge instead.

Not even they want to get near each other

Mike Mizanin over Chris Benoit…hold it, let me double-check this…yeah, Mike Mizanin over Chris Benoit, Non-Title Match, Thank God (Pinfall, failed flying headbutt courtesy of Porter interfeence): Well, we have now found out what is officially worse than having to tap to Cena. It’s a double whammy, actually: it not only means that Mizanin has a win in the books against Benoit, it means that the Benoit/Porter feud is continuing. I don’t think I could take a Porter win for the title, unless Punk is moved over from ECW to take it from Porter. Ah, a man can dream, can’t he?

Aim for the head, Chris

Mattsy-Poo over Booker T (Pinfall, rollup): Did this match only take ten minutes? It seemed like a helluva lot longer. Boy, did it drag. I have no idea who’s at fault for that, either. I don’t blame everything on Mattsy-Poo. It just didn’t click. And as for the apres, are they doing another fake breakup with the Royals? That’s how it always turns out. Let’s see if it sticks for more than three weeks. It could be an interesting angle if Paisley starts coming up with “Royal Champions” to take her hubby down a peg.

Punking out Mattsy-Poo must not only happen, it must be shown to be happening

Paul London and Brian Kendrick over Chavito and Novocaine Helms, Non-Title Match (Pinfall, London pins Helms, double-team Sliced Bread): Okay, that was fun. Inconsequential, but fun. Comparisons to the X Division right now may be made at your discretion.

Reminds me of one of those vector sum problems I had to do back in Advanced Mechanics

Angle Developments:

The pain received is nothing compared to the pain that is given

There’s a buttsex joke to be made here, but I’m not going to make one

Blue Bloods plus Big Red Machine equals…well, purple

Light teal? You know, if there was a clothing shop for gay genies, this is what they’d sell.

NO FLAMZ PLEEZE!!1111!!!11!!1!

Okay, that covers this week. Next week, I’ll be contributing a little more, including catching up on DVD reviews and maybe even an album review on top of the wrestling stuff. That’s what surgery can do to a man. Until Tuesday, I bid you a fond farewell and remind you that if you claim intellectual superiority to me, you are, by definition, wrong.

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